The best quarterback since Andrew Luck? That's what you're about to read—and it's not crazy talk.
What else can you look forward to in this week's article? We'll take a look at the team with the best chance to have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft—per those guys who were really good at math in school—and what the current standings would do to the first round of the NFL draft (it's crazy). But the meat-and-potatoes portion of the Scouting Notebook this week comes in the form of a scouting report on fantastic Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley and a look back at some of the summer hype that gets scouts in trouble.
But up first, here's the news for the week.
The Scout's Report
— Starting the week with news that isn't really "news" but is worth talking about. Cardale Jones opened the draft season (which really starts right after the previous draft ends) as my No. 1 quarterback. Of course, that grade always came with an asterisk that he's ranked there based on three games, and that the evaluation would absolutely change with a bigger sample size. Well, now that sample size is here, albeit just six games total, but Jones has struggled with accuracy and decision-making in the Ohio State offense. That, for now, is pushing him out of the top quarterback spot (Cal's Jared Goff took over that spot) and out of my top 32 players.
— Former Ohio State defensive end Noah Spence (No. 9, Eastern Kentucky) has been mentioned before in this space, and he's earned another mention after watching the tape of his performance against North Carolina State. Spence, playing right outside linebacker, was a nuisance for the Wolfpack and did a great job showcasing his pass-rush skills on a big stage.
— A lot of Big Ten notes this week, and much of it is coming from Penn State, where one area scout told me defensive lineman Anthony Zettel isn't the most talented player on his own line. That would be Austin Johnson, and the film I've studied backs this up. Zettel is a high-motor star, but his average athleticism and average strength are a concern. Johnson, on the other hand, looks like a first-rounder at nose tackle with his excellent size, speed and motor to chase down screens and sweeps.
— The big name at Penn State is quarterback Christian Hackenberg, and I've polled the area scouts who've traveled through Happy Valley this season. It's worth noting that each scout—six of them replied—gave Hackenberg a Round 1 grade based on an in-person look and a full review of his film. Hackenberg, a true junior, is expected to declare for the 2016 draft even though he's struggling statistically in a PSU offense that is not suited to his arm strength and pocket-style passing.
— UCLA has lost starters Myles Jack (knee) and Fabian Moreau (broken bone in foot), and it's really too bad because both looked like potential top-five players at their respective positions. The good news for the Bruins is cornerback Ishmael Adams has been reinstated, per an announcement by the school (via the Los Angeles Times' Chris Foster). Adams was suspended following an arrest on suspicion of robbery last month.
— Staying on the Myles Jack storyline for a minute, I reported Wednesday evening that Jack has a $5 million insurance policy covering him against injury. The way it works is that Jack (or UCLA) pays a monthly premium, and if he's never hurt, the insurance company turns a profit. A big one. But if Jack gets hurt—and in this case he did—he's protected against loss of value. In his case, that's a $5 million payout if he's not drafted in the first round. This is noteworthy for many reasons, but chiefly because it gives Jack incentive to declare for the 2016 draft. Since he's injured, if he falls outside the first round, he'll get a $5 million check on top of his NFL salary.
— And now on to that note from the top: "the best quarterback since Andrew Luck." That's what one high-ranking college scout texted me about California quarterback Jared Goff late this week. Goff, who was profiled in this spot last week, is definitely on pace to be one of the higher-graded quarterbacks I've scouted.
Five Names to Know
5. No. 99 DL Austin Johnson, Penn State
As mentioned above, Johnson is drawing the eyes of NFL scouts as they make their trips through Penn State. Keep an eye on the entire Nittany Lion defensive line, but No. 99 is the potential star there.
4. No. 24 RB Paul Perkins, UCLA
Perkins may be the most underrated player in college football right now. Last season he led the Pac-12 in rushing, and he's already put the UCLA offense on his back in Weeks 2 and 3 this year. The 5'10", 196-pound Perkins isn't the biggest guy, but he's a tough, instinctive runner between the tackles.
3. No. 64 T Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
Johnstone has faced his share of top-tier pass-rushers this year (like Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun), and in Week 4 he'll see a very good Utah front seven. The Utes defense loves to dial up blitzes, too, so Johnstone has a chance to prove his awareness and agility in this game.
2. No. 3 CB Jonathan Jones, Auburn
If you want a marquee matchup this weekend, check out Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones against Mississippi State wide receiver De'Runnya Wilson (No. 1). The big-bodied Wilson will give most cornerbacks trouble, but Jones has shown very good technique so far in 2015.
1. No. 7 WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame
Will Fuller has been one of the most electric playmakers in college football, but he's also putting the ball on the turf more than you'd like. In 2014, Fuller dropped the ball 11 times, and through the two games I've charted in 2015, he had another two drops. He's a legitimate playmaker, but the focus drops are an issue he needs to improve.
Scouting Report: Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Throughout the 2016 draft season, one draft prospect will be highlighted each week with a first-look scouting report.
No. 78 Tackle Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame (6'6", 318 lbs)
Strengths: Ronnie Stanley has elite movement skills, consistently beating his teammates off the snap. His length is top-tier, too, and he does a great job of saving his punches and keeping pass-rushers off the quarterback with his ability to slide and mirror them on the edge. Stanley is rarely out of position whether he's taking a hard kick-slide out to the corner or protecting the inside shoulder with a little hop and plant (hinge block).
In the run game, Stanley isn't overly physical, but his hand placement and agility are top-tier. He consistently beats the ball to the second level and can get downfield in a hurry to pick up linebackers.
Stanley will be a three-year starter at offensive tackle and plays in both a two- and three-point stance at Notre Dame. The offense there isn't exactly pro-style, but Stanley is well versed in zone run blocking and hinge blocking to protect the edge. Stanley's patience, body control, agility and awareness on the edge make him a top-tier player in this draft class.
Weaknesses: The biggest questions for Stanley will revolve around his ability to anchor against NFL-sized defenders. That lack of meanness in the run game could get him criticized too. Stanley needs to show he can be a finisher—more of the Taylor Lewan-style blocker—and not always rely on speed and agility to win on the edge. Stanley has seen a strange increase in false-start penalties—four in Week 3—but that coincides with a new quarterback under center, and from the game film it does appear to be a cadence-related jump and not an issue for him normally.
Pro Comparison: Tyron Smith, Dallas Cowboys
Ronnie Stanley isn't just a heavyset kid the coaches put at offensive tackle. He's an athlete with a big, strong, lean body. He's built like a power forward with little fat in his midsection and the thick legs and butt needed to play the position. Like Smith, he's raw as a college tackle, but the athleticism and technique are there to be great.
The Big Board
The first two weeks of the NFL season are great for overreactions and snap judgments, and that's exactly what we're going to do here by taking a look at how the first round of the 2016 NFL draft would play out if the Week 2 draft order was used. Again, this isn't a prediction about the draft order in late April! It's a look at what would happen right now.
|Week 2 Draft Order Mock Draft|
|1 Detroit||T Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame|
|2 Chicago||QB Jared Goff, California|
|3 New Orleans||DL Joey Bosa, Ohio State|
|4 Indianapolis||DL Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss|
|5 Philadelphia||CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida|
|6 New York Giants||LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame|
|7 Houston||T Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss|
|8 Baltimore||CB Jalen Ramsey, FSU|
|9 Seattle||WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss|
|10 Jacksonville||DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon|
|11 Tampa Bay||T Jack Conklin, Michigan State|
|12 Minnesota||T Taylor Decker, Ohio State|
|13 St. Louis||WR Tyler Boyd, Pitt|
|14 San Francisco||CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame|
|15 Tennessee||LB Myles Jack, UCLA|
|16 Miami||LB Scooby Wright, Arizona|
|17 Washington||QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State|
|18 Kansas City||LB Reggie Ragland, Alabama|
|19 San Diego||LB Kemoko Turay, Rutgers|
|20 Pittsburgh||CB Cameron Sutton, Tennessee|
|21 Oakland||CB Tre'Davious White, LSU|
|22 Cleveland||WR Mike Williams, Clemson|
|23 Buffalo||G Vadal Alexander, LSU|
|24 Arizona||DL Adolphus Washington, Ohio State|
|25 Atlanta||DL Kenny Clark, UCLA|
|26 Carolina||T Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M|
|27 Cincinnati||DL Austin Johnson, Penn State|
|28 Dallas||RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State|
|29 Green Bay||DL A'Shawn Robinson, Alabama|
|30 New England||No Pick|
|31 Denver||TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas|
|32 New York Jets||T Tyler Johnstone, Oregon|
10. Cincinnati senior quarterback Gunner Kiel suffered a scary hit to the head during a slide Thursday night—a play that left him immobile on the turf and eventually carted off on a backboard. ESPN's Kaylee Hartung reported on the broadcast that Kiel was able to move his toes and did speak to the medical staff, which is a great sign.
First, let's hope and pray Kiel is going to be OK. Second, I hope the Cincinnati training staff and coaches knew what they were doing by letting Kiel play Thursday night—five days after suffering a concussion against Miami (Ohio). At times like this, football comes second.
9. Myles Jack has filled up a considerable amount of space in this week's article, and for good reason considering his talent and the season-ending injury. I've started the process of doing a full evaluation on Jack given his insurance policy, and my first thought on him is that he's a DeAndre Levy-like player, with a little more athleticism.
8. Good news, Chicago Bears fans: You're the favorite to land the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, according to ESPN's Power Football Index. The experts at ESPN give the Bears a 22 percent chance of earning the first pick.
7. Should LSU running back Leonard Fournette be allowed to head to the NFL after this year—his true sophomore season?
We talked about this last with Todd Gurley—before his suspension and injury in his final year at Georgia—and it's coming up again with Fournette. He's a Heisman Trophy candidate, a beast in the open field and an agile mover in space. He's not so much unlike a healthy Gurley. And if it were up to me, elite sophomores would be able to petition the NFL for early entry.
Let's not open the floodgates to true sophomores, but why shouldn't Fournette be able to request that LSU petition NFL general managers (not the advisory committee, but actual GMs) to see where he would rank before the January 15 early-entry deadline? If the majority felt like he carried a first-round grade at that time, Fournette (and maybe Myles Garrett) would be eligible for the 2016 NFL draft.
6. Welcome to Overreaction Season. Last year the Colts started 0-2, only to finish 11-5 as AFC South champions and the runner-up in the AFC. At this time last year, everyone wrote Tom Brady off—he led the New England Patriots to a 12-4 record and a Super Bowl victory in which his play was crucial to the win. We've learned some things in two weeks, but a lot can and will change in the next 15.
5. Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson has been benched heading into Week 4, putting an end to a summer of absolutely crazy hype from media scouts. Johnson was called "the next Cam Newton" by some, the "most pro-ready" by others and generally praised as a sure thing. But why? He'd never been a starter and couldn't beat out Nick Marshall (an NFL cornerback) for the starting job.
The Johnson hype was ridiculous and goes to show that all the hours spent scouting in the summer can often be a waste of time. It's good to go into the year with some familiarity with players, but with an underclassman like Johnson it's better to wait for a few weeks (or months) and risk not being the first person to make a comment on him.
4. During Monday Night Football, Jon Gruden made a statement that the New York Jets defense had nine first-rounders on it. That could be true if Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson were on the field, but with Milliner injured and Richardson suspended, the Jets still fielded a crazy seven first-rounders starting on defense. Here's how the starting lineup Monday night looked:
|New York Jets Starting Defense|
|LE||Muhammad Wilkerson||Round 1, 2011|
|NT||Damon Harrison||UDFA, 2012|
|RE||Leonard Williams||Round 1, 2015|
|ROLB||Quinton Coples||Round 1, 2012|
|ILB||Demario Davis||Round 3, 2012|
|ILB||David Harris||Round 2, 2007|
|LOLB||Calvin Pace||Round 1, 2003|
|CB||Darrelle Revis||Round 1, 2007|
|FS||Marcus Gilchrist||Round 2, 2011|
|SS||Calvin Pryor||Round 1, 2014|
|CB||Antonio Cromartie||Round 1, 2006|
3. The Philadelphia Eagles enter the weekend at 0-2 and with a general panic setting in around the team. Here's what I'll say about that: It's all on head coach Chip Kelly. Win or lose, this is Kelly's roster and this is Kelly's team. He's installed his guys and his schemes on both offense and defense. He exchanged LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, Nick Foles and Evan Mathis for the current roster. However this season goes for them, he should get all the credit or blame.
2. Tony Romo (collarbone) and Drew Brees (shoulder) are both injured heading into Week 3—Romo will miss around two months, Brees is day-to-day—and that gets you thinking about the lack of backup quarterbacks in the NFL. You could argue there is a lack of starting talent in the NFL, too, but very few NFL teams are developing quarterbacks behind their starters anymore. In Dallas they had Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore before adding Matt Cassel. In New Orleans it's Luke McCown and third-rounder Garrett Grayson—a player I ranked in Round 5 and who looked years away from being ready to handle an NFL offense this preseason.
Should an active general manager ever ask my opinion, I'd recommend drafting a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds every other year. These are basically throwaway picks at the end of the draft, and the potential reward is huge if you can develop and trade (or start) a late-round quarterback.
1. Two games have been played in the 2015 NFL season, and already fans are asking on Twitter for the best head coaching candidates. Here's my short list—in no order—with a whole lot of season ahead of us.
|Top Head Coaching Candidates|
|Teryl Austin||Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions|
|Adam Gase||Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears|
|Brian Kelly||Head Coach, Notre Dame|
|Josh McDaniels||Offensive Coordinator, New England Patriots|
|Nick Saban||Head Coach, Alabama|
|Kyle Shanahan||Offensive Coordinator, Atlanta Falcons|
|David Shaw||Head Coach, Stanford|
|Kevin Sumlin||Head Coach, Texas A&M|
|Dave Toub||Special Teams Coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs|
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.